Fowl is Fair

The residents of the McNeil Avian Center at the Philadelphia Zoo were particularly friendly on this visit.  It is an excellent exhibit, anyhow, in which most of the birds roam free with the guests, bobbing across the walkways and peering back at cameras with a kind of frank, birdie curiosity.  But today — perhaps because it was a winter weekday and the crowds were thin — the birds seemed in a posing mood.  Here are two, snapped from no more than an arm’s length away.

Fowl is Fair: Victoria Crowned Pidgeon
Victoria Crowned Pidgeon
Fowl is Fair: Ringed Teal
Ringed Teal (this was one happy duck.)

It’s neither food nor politics, but I thought you all might enjoy them, anyway.

Two Old Men Eating Soup

A recent exchange with my friend Daniel reminded me of this painting.  It’s called Viejos comiendo sopaTwo Old Men Eating Soup — and it’s one of Francisco Goya’s Black Paintings, the series that he did at the end of his life, after the Napoleonic Wars, after bitterness, depression, and deafness had taken him almost entirely.  Its companion, Saturn Devouring His Son, is more famous, and somewhat more gruesome.  But this one has two old men eating soup.

Viejos comiendo sopa (Two Old Men Eating Soup) by Francisco Goya

Mmm … Soup…

Christmas Cookie Quickie

It’s been a holiday-scented whirlwind of baking around here.  Because like I told you in the eggnog post — this year is all about the Grinch reduction effort.  What we’ve got are some (festively shaped) gingersnaps from David Lebovitz, my own winter spice oatmeal cookies, and a batch of homemade canine treats that I’m sure are delicious — just not to me.

Christmas Cookie Quickie

Folks who are getting cookie care packages this year — you know who you are.  Everybody else: make some! You’ve got the recipes.

Dispatch from the Land of Ice and Snow

Philadelphia’s week of inclement weather has not so far proved particularly picturesque.  But it has reminded me that I have photographs from the much more beautiful ice and snow I enjoyed a few weeks back, when I was in Central Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving.  Here are two images:

Dispatch from the Land of Ice and Snow

Dispatch from the Land of Ice and Snow

The first features an indistinct Sarah, and the second puts me in mind of Snow White.

(Both are best viewed large.)

A Gem from the History of Fermentation at Sea

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term inspissated is an adjective meaning: brought to a thick consistence; thickened.

I mention it because in the 1777 volume, A Voyage Toward the South Pole, Captain James Cook speaks of having been given several barrels of inspissated wort — syrup of unfermented beer — to carry aboard the H. M. Bark Endeavour as it sailed to the South Pacific and around the world. It was thought, he writes, that the syrup would require to be fermented with yeast, in the usual way of making beer.

But things do not, apparently, always go as planned at sea. So active was this inspissated wort — because of the heat of the weather, and the agitation of the ship — that it reached the highest state of fermentation all on its own, and evaded all our endeavours to stop it.

If this juice could be kept from fermenting, Cook writes, it certainly would be a most valuable article at sea. But alas. It was not to be.

Those same shipboard conditions that proved so beneficial to the aging of Madeira wine made this particular fermentation experiment a spectacular, perhaps explosive, failure.

And the sailors — poor sailors — were left with a sticky, beery mess to clean.

Twice Cooked Thanksgiving Recipe Index

The moment of truth is upon us, Thanksgiving cooks.  Now is the time for a frenetic flurry of brining birds and baking bread, looking up last minute formulae for oyster dressing and sweet potato pie.  At this late date, there’s little I can do to soothe your jangled nerves.  But I can at least do this.

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Vegan Pumpkin Soup

For your convenience, here is an index of Twice Cooked’s Thanksgiving recipes from this year and last:

And here are a couple of other recipes that you might find useful (and seasonally appropriate) as you plan your Thanksgiving meal:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  And happy Chanukah, too!

And when all the food is eaten and all the dishes are done, remember to support this site by clicking through here to to do your holiday shopping.

Fall Fungus, by the Wissahickon Creek

Ever since Elizabeth and Hana each made their posts about foraging last summer, I have been unable to turn off the part of my brain that notices interesting mushrooms.  This one I found poking out of some leaves along Philadelphia’s Forbidden Drive.  I have no earthly idea whether it is edible.  But I wouldn’t.

Fall Fungus at the Wissahickon Creek


Thanksgiving Thoughts: Hunger and the Holidays

As of November 1 — just in time for Thanksgiving — Federal funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been drastically reduced. The program had been living on funds from the 2009 stimulus for a while now, and absent the willingness of Congress to appropriate money for hunger relief, families receiving aid have seen their food stamps slashed by an average of $36 per month.

Now that doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot of cash. But here, according to the Daily Kos, is what $36 per month buys:

a gallon of milk, a pound of broccoli, a pound of bananas, a dozen eggs, and a pound of spaghetti every single week. Or two pounds of chicken legs, two pounds of rice, a pound of apples, a pound of tomatoes, and two pounds of iceberg lettuce.

Food banks and other charitable organizations are left trying to make up the difference. But the difference, according to this piece at CNN, is something like $5 billion. The charitable system can’t make up such a loss, one food-bank director in New Jersey told the Daily Kos. To put it bluntly, we can’t come in and make up $90 million across the state. We just can’t.

And that’s where all of us come in. Charity alone cannot close the hunger deficit in the United States this Thanksgiving. But every little bit counts. What I am posting here are links to the donation pages for my local hunger relief organization, Philabundance, and for one of leading national hunger relief charities, Feeding America.

It doesn’t really matter which you choose, as long as you choose to give. Charity may not solve the problem, but it will certainly help somebody have a happier Thanksgiving in 2013.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Emergency Preparedness Kit

Always make more chocolate chip cookie dough than you can bake on any given day. Freeze the excess for cookie emergencies. And when you do, spoon it into an ice cube tray, one cookie’s worth at a time, so that when that inevitable cookie emergency arrives, you’re ready not just with pre-mixed dough, but pre-mixed dough that’s conveniently sized to be clattered onto a jellyroll pan straight from the freezer and baked — at 400F — for about four minutes longer than your cookies would ordinarily stay in.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Emergency Preparedness Kit

I try to keep a bag of these little guys in the back of my freezer at all times. But then, I suffer from frequent cookie emergencies.

The Single Greatest Virtue of the Toaster Oven

Nobody ever asks me about the merits of toaster ovens relative to the pop-up variety. But it turns out I have an opinion on the matter. There is one key application that makes the toaster oven undeniably superior to its less capable cousin. And that is toasted cheese on bread.

The Single Greatest Virtue of the Toaster Oven

By clicking through this site to, you too can be the proud owner of a proper, fully cheese-capable toaster oven. Which is a thing that I would highly recommend.